A SUMMARY OF THE HISTORY OF CEDAR HILL BAPTIST CHURCH
Five men directed, as they believed, by the Holy Spirit, assembled on a balmy afternoon in April of the year 1898. The setting was appropriate for a situation concerning a furtherance of the Lord's work. A verdant knoll, surmounted by giant cedars, oaks, and walnut trees interspersed by dogwoods and redbuds, whose fragrant pink and white blossoms heralded the event of Spring, was chosen for this important conference.
The men who constituted this group were Amon Gross, Dr. T. J. Denny, Coon C. Gross, Reverend John Roach, and George Gross. This group had assembled for the purpose of determining the need of a Baptist Church in the community. A discussion ensued in which various issues were considered. Subsequent to this discussion, one of the members suggested a "season of prayer" at the conclusion of which the assembled group was impressed to say, "We will build it. "
The principal builders and carpenters appointed to the task of erecting a house of worship included J. B. (Buck) Tiller, Thomas Boatright, William Gross, Kelly Gross, Charles Gross, and Coon C. Gross. Others that rendered valuable assistance to the work were Amon Gross, George Gross, John Roach, George Summers, Patton Spradlin, and Dr. T. J. Denny. There were others who gave of their time 'and labor, but unfortunately a record of those names failed to survive the long number of years that elapsed from the erection of the first building to the present time.
The erection of the building proceeded under the most trying and difficult circumstances. During that period of history and in this area, there were few gainful occupations, thereby resulting in a citizenry nearly void of monetary resources. What those dedicated men lacked in financial means was more than compensated for in their fervency and zeal to perform a noble and glorious work. The situation was described in the early records as "all work and little money. "
The site of the first building, consisting of 2.77 acres, was donated by Coon C. Gross. The plot for a cemetery was a gift from George Gross. The cemetery was located a short distance from the church building on what is now part of the back waters of Norris Dam and a few yards North or East of the White Bridge. The timber for the building was given by various parties who had trees and forest on their property. Volunteers went into the woods, cut down the trees, and hauled the logs to the old water mill. At the mill, M. K. (Ked) Gross and Charles Gross sawed these logs into the appropriate lumber needed for the task. The lumber was then transported to the building site where the carpenters transformed the formless materials into what was deemed a beautiful structure. This task was accomplished, as the ancient records so aptly phrase it, "without one cent of pay." One of the Church founders put this thought in writing: "so Cedar Hill was a gift by sons and grandsons of the pioneers for all future generations. "
Cedar Hill Baptist Church was first named Pleasant Point and was so constituted on the fourth Saturday of March in the year 1900. The church was organized from and as an arm of Whitman Hollow Baptist Church. The organization was facilitated by the Reverend C. L. Bowling as Moderator, and the Reverend John Roach as Clerk. The Articles of Faith, Abstracts and Principles, the Constitution and Rules of Decorum, and the Church Covenant were adopted from the Whitman Hollow Baptist Church.
The first session of the newly constituted Cedar Hill Baptist Church was held on the fourth Saturday of April in the year 1900. The first sermon was delivered by the Reverend John Roach. In the April session, the congregation voted to change the name of the Church from Pleasant Point to Cedar Hill. Whit Roach was given credit for suggesting the name Cedar Hill. Thus the official name of the Church, Cedar Hill, has prevailed from the fourth Saturday of April in the year 1900 to the present time.
The Church was constituted with the following charter members:
- Annie Denny
- Attie Denny
- Mary Denny
- Thomas Denny
- Abraham Gross
- Adaline Gross
- Amon Gross
- Charles Gross
- G. W. Gross
- Martha Gross
- William Gross
- Alice Harrison
- Hannah Harrison
- Mary Harrison
- Frances Roach
- Lanna Roach
- Manley Roach
- Anne Summers
- Bitha Summers
- George Summers
The Church was dedicated to the worship of God on the second Sunday in May of the year 1900. The congregation invited J. S. Lindsay, E. B. Booth, W. H. Rutherford, and Reverend McGarity to assist in the dedication ceremonies. The dedication sermon was preached by the Reverend McGarity.
Reverend John Roach was elected as the first pastor; however, he declined to accept the pastorate. Reverend Bowling was next chosen, but he likewise declined. Following the decision by Brother Bowling, the Reverend John Reed was offered the position, but he too, declined. The Church then prevailed upon Reverend Patton Spradlin, who was elected, accepted the assignment, and thus became the first pastor of the Cedar Hill Baptist Church. The call to Reverend Spradlin occurred on the fourth Saturday in 1901. The Church agreed to pay him $54.75. This appeared to be the annual salary. The information gleaned from musty records of long ago is not very clear on the matter.
The first clerk of the Church was William Gross who served eleven consecutive years in that post and also served a number of years at a later period. Attie Denny served as the first Treasurer of the Church. Moss Gross was elected as the first Housekeeper in December 1900. The first collection, a freewill offering, to recompense Brother Gross for janitorial services rendered amounted to a grand total of forty cents. At the regular session of the Church in May of 1901, Brother J. B. Tiller and Brother G. W. Summers were ordained as Deacons. The ordination service was performed by Reverend J. W. McGee, Reverend C. L. Bowling, and Reverend John Roach. By December of 1901, the Church showed some financial progress evidenced by the election or re-election of Moss Gross as Housekeeper at a salary of two dollars per month.
On the second Sunday of November 1904, Brother John Rutherford and wife, and Brother W. M. Gross and wife were ordained as Deacons. It is noteworthy that the documents from which this information was taken listed the name of the Deacon to be ordained followed by "and -wife". In the following year, 1905, on the second Saturday in July, Brother Joseph Newport was ordained "to the full work of the ministry. "
Cedar Hill, constituted as a missionary Baptist Church, progressed toward missionary goals. In March of 1906, on a second Saturday, the Church was called to order for a business session, and after a disposal of the preliminaries, there was a motion passed to take up a collection for missions. One-half of the collection was designated for the use of Brother Ben Roach, a local son serving as a missionary in China, and the other half of the collection was designated for expenditures in the "destitute places of Earth. " The collection amounted to three dollars and thirty cents.
The Campbell County Baptist Association was constituted on the third Saturday of November in 1907. The formation of the Association took place at Cedar Hill Baptist Church, thus Cedar Hill is the home of the Association. It should be pointed out that in case the Association fails to receive an invitation from member churches for the Annual Session, then the Association automatically returns to Cedar Hill, the home base. Cedar Hill Baptist Church has always been proud and honored to claim such a distinction. On October 7, 1981, in a business session, a motion was made and seconded to invite the Association to Cedar Hill Baptist Church for the 75t h year Annual Session in 1982. Cedar Hill was represented at the first Association meeting by the following delegates: Abraham Gross, J. B. Tiller, G. W. Gross, W. M. Gross, J. M. Newport, and John Wilhoit.
Earlier in this manuscript, the writers noted that the land for the Church cemetery was donated by Brother G. W. Gross. Therefore, on a second Saturday in November of 1909, one and one-half acres of land was officially handed over to the Church by Brother Gross for the previously assigned purpose.
In May of 1910, the Church elected G. W. Gross as a Trustee. Brother Gross replaced Brother J. B. Tiller who had deceased. Brother Amon Gross, who had served as Trustee from the inception of the Church, resigned and was replaced by Brother D. M. Skaggs.
At the regular business session in June of 1915, Brothers John Wilhoit and Alex Heatherly were ordained to serve as Deacons. The ordination service was performed by D. H. Webb, R. W. Cooper, P. C. Perkins, and John D. Walker.
On the fourth Saturday in October of 1915, a long-time Deacon, G. W. Summers, was ordained as a minister.
As the years elapsed, the Church building was improved by additions for Sunday School rooms. The men charged with the responsibility for carrying out this phase of the building program included George Tiller, Thomas Prater, Jim Gross, Lincoln Curnutt, Hugh Lindsay, and others whose names failed to be recorded in the archives. Those new additions served as Sunday School rooms on the main floor and as Sunday School rooms on a second floor and also as a balcony. The outside of these rooms adjacent to the sanctuary was enclosed by French folding doors. These doors could be folded and thus the seating capacity could be nearly doubled. Many of these folding doors were removed to the new (present) building and were used until 1980. The records show that the French doors were paid for by the "good ladles" of the Church.
In 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority Act was passed by the United States Congress and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first project that ensued from this Act was the construction of Norris Dam on the Clinch River. Cedar Hill was located on or near a stream known as Indian River, a stream originating North of LaFollette and also known as Big Creek. This stream ultimately emptied into the Clinch-Powell waters. Therefore, the land on which Cedar Hill Church was located became part of the reservoir created by the backwaters of Norris Dam.
In light of this development, the Church on August 31, 1933, appointed W. M. Gross, L. K. Denny, Thomas Prater, and George Tiller as additional Trustees. These men were appointed to assist the already acting Trustees, namely, Alex Heatherly, John Rutherford, and Thomas Denny, in the sale and relocation of the Church building and Church cemetery.
The dismantling of the old structure and construction of another building at the new site (the present location) was principally the handiwork of George Tiller, Thomas Prater, John Rutherford, Lincoln Curnutt, Hugh Lindsay, Billy Mozingo, and Alex Heatherly. Other persons participated in the program whose names were not included in the old manuscripts from whence these historical facts were derived. During the construction of the new building, worship services and Sunday School classes were held in the College Hill School (the old building).
The new edifice became available for services on Sunday, April 26, 1936. The first member accepted in the new setting was Kate Rasnake who came to the Church via a letter from a Baptist Church in Virginia.
On May 10, 1936, the new Church building was dedicated to the service of God with the most impressive and imposing ceremonies. The Dedicatory Sermon was delivered by Reverend F. R. (Russ) Walters. Documents reveal that Reverend Walters preached on "The Resurrection. "
The Church has grown from 20 members in 1900 to 746 in 2000. There have been many improvements in the building since 1936. During the pastorate of Owen Hatmaker, 1950-59, the choir loft was built, the sanctuary carpeted, new pews installed, and additional classrooms came into existence. The pastorship of Elbert Baird witnessed the installation of in-door toilet facilities in the years 1959 to 1963. Ralph Berry, 1963-65, was instrumental in the Church purchase of a parsonage. In the years Ralph Leach served as pastor, 1965-69, such improvements as a parking lot, the building of a baptistery, and the provision for a portico came into fruition. During the years 1969-72, John Nunley was the pastor, and a new parsonage was purchased and the Church installed air-conditioning.
Also, a new piano was bought. Lester Anderson, 1972-77, instituted the first Church Council consisting of a pulpit committee, trustees, and deacons. Also seating pads were added to the pews, drapes for the baptistery, carpet for the choir loft, and an Allen organ was purchased. On October 13, 1976, there were discussions and plans begun on a new addition to the Church. The addition of five new classrooms, Pastor's study, fellowship hall, kitchen, and bathrooms was completed in 1980. Reverend Lester Anderson was invited back for dedication ceremonies. Those serving on various committees during the building phase consisted of J. C. Brown, Melvin McHenry, Raymond Duncan, Jerry Wells, A.W. Sharp, Rhoda Duncan, and Sharon Johnson.
During the pastorship of, Jack Day, 1977 - 1989, additional property beside the church was purchased. In 1985 we redecorated our sanctuary and built an outside ramp.
Ronnie Arnold has served as pastor since 1989. In 1990 the following main projects were completed: bricking of the church and building of the parsonage. Later, additional land behind the Church was purchased on which the new Family Life Center now stands. Dedication for this new facility was on October 26,1997. The sanctuary was remodeled again in 1998 to enhance the seating capacity. Additional property adjacent to the church on the south side was purchased in January, 2000. Total membership has increased by 247 during these years.
These were the projects most noticeable and those that received the most fanfare, however every pastor urged vital and and necessary improvements that has maintained and supported the substantial edifice now used and enjoyed.
In 2003, a Long Range Planning committee was convened for the purpose of developing the plans of developing a new Sanctuary. This committee was comprised of Terry Heatherly, George Burcham, Keith Clotfelter, Don Boshears, Steve Lawson, Lynn Goins, and Clarence Monday.
In the fall of 2007, we broke ground on a new 600 seat Sanctuary. This building construction was overseen by Keith Clotfelter, Clarence Monday, Don Boshears, Steve Lawson, and Tommy Norman.
After many trials, tribulations, and delays, we celebrated our first worship service in our new Sanctuary on Miracle Sunday, December 18,2011, with over 700 in attendance. The new Sanctuary was officially dedicated on August 19,2012 , with Rev. Charles Grigsby leading the dedication service and beginning a four day Revival as well.
God continues to bless this mountain ministry with people joining and being baptized almost every Sunday.